Rain Stopped Play

Well, the end of the river has passed and what a let down. The river was almost over it’s banks in the end, but things were looking very good with 3 weeks left. Even then things didn’t go to plan.

It was my day off work and my local rivers were looking in fine trim. The temperatures were freezing overnight but almost double figures in the day. It was probably a bit too cold for barbel, so it was either chub or roach fishing, or possibly both. Before I could fish though, I heard the dreaded words ‘I think the dog needs to go to the vets Mick, he’s squinting badly, are you ok to book him in straight away at 8.30 when they open please’ Talk about a spanner in the works. That was the start of the frustrations! By 12.45 I was back home with the dog, but £160 lighter in the pocket. Thats a decent rod in angling currency! I put the dog in the house, went straight into the garage, then shot down to the river to salvage what I could of the day.

I decided to fish a swim I’d not fished since summer, just to see what was at home. A long glide finished where a tree had fallen in the water. I trotted maggots up to the tree, then held back hard, before repeating the process many times. By fishing well over depth I managed to get the odd bite, with most coming almost right under the tree.

I landed a couple of spanking 6oz roach then managed to lose a few good fish that straightened my hooks. I thought they were chub so wasn’t too bothered. Eventually I landed one of the chub and followed it with a lovely roach that was 3oz over a pound

This gave me plenty of encouragement, but the only other fish I landed were a few more 6oz roach. After losing my 4th good chub of the day to another straightened hook, I decided to move swims before I ran out of hooks! It had been a good couple of hours in the swim though.

I headed to a swim where I’d caught the chub and perch from in the last blog. A nice crease swim against some far bank cover. I fed it first with maggots while I had a rest. I was working out my plan of action. After fishing this swim I’d fish a couple more, both known to hold big roach, saving the best swim till dusk.

Before I could put my plan into action I received a text from Tracey. Her daughters car had broke down at work, could I pick her up at 5pm and go to the shop too………You can guess what I thought! I estimated I’d have about 40 minutes fishing left before I had to get home so thought I’d give the swim I was in my full attention.

Surprisingly, after feeding regularly and trying all sorts when I was trotting I never had a touch. That was until the float went under and I hooked the bottom, which then started to move slowly upstream! I’d obviously hooked into a heavy fish, possibly a pike that just kept going, very slowly upstream, before the hook pinged out, almost straightened again! I don’t think the fish even knew it was hooked.

There was too little time to tie another hook on, so I bent it back into shape and trotted again. This time the float shot under and I played a very roach like fish to the middle. It was hard to see what it was in the coloured water, but there were no silver flashes so I suspected a big perch. Just as I saw what looked like stripes, the hook pinged out again. It wasn’t going well today. On the next trot the float buried again and I was into a big roach. I knew straight away this time as it came straight to the surface to give the game away. It’s always nerve racking landing a good roach in flowing water but my bendy hook held firm and the day was suddenly getting better. It looked like a fish I caught on hemp at the end of summer. If so, that meant it usually swims in a decent shoal of big roach, possibly 12 to 15 in number, with several over 2lbs.

The next cast saw the float bury again, and another tense battle took place with another good roach. I soon landed it to make it 2 roach over a pound and a half in successive casts.

The next few trots saw a couple of missed bites, before I hooked big roach number 3. This time it out smarted me by diving into a clump of weed, where it shed the hook before my eyes. What a crafty sod. Almost chub like. To top things off, as I pulled my hook out of the weed, it pinged back and wrapped round the tip of the rod into a right old birds nest. I took that as my time to leave as I’d not even have time to tackle up again before I’d have to set off home.

I tried to sum the day up. A disaster? possibly, but you can’t call those river roach a disaster. Maybe it was a case of what could have been. I wasn’t too bothered though as I’d found a good shoal of big roach. I thought I’d surely get a chance to target them before the ‘dreaded 14th’, but alas, the ‘Beast from the East’ then heavy rain put the river out of action until a couple of days after the season ended. There was one small window to fish but I was busy that day. Martin landed a couple of fish just under 2lbs on that day, from the last swim I’d planned to fish in my ‘ruined’ plan.

‘As one door closes another opens’ is the saying, so it’s time to fish my local ‘cuts’ for some perch roach and chub, which all grow to specimen sizes if you know where to look. On my only short trip so far, I fished lobworms for big perch. I turned up in the early afternoon, just as a few match anglers were packing up. They tipped back 4 small roach between them as the ‘beast’ had really cooled the water. You should have seen their faces 5 minutes later when both my rods went off straight away, just after I’d cast in. A couple of bream wasn’t what I was after, but they kept me on my toes, as did plenty of others.

In fact it got me thinking just how good my local canals are. As I’ve said, they definitely hold big roach to over 2lbs, chub to over 7lbs, perch to almost 5lbs, plus numbers of 20lb+ pike. The hard thing about targeting these fish though is the sheer numbers of bream. The canals are full of them. In fact since the closed season was abolished, my local canals have never fished better……food for thought!!

Lovely Chubly

The weather has been a mixed and rather cold bag since I last wrote on here. The temperature today though touched double figures, but it’s also rained all day. There are signs that the fish are starting to wake up, in my local rivers at least, so hopefully sport will pick up before we have to abandon the rivers just as they’re reaching peak form.

Speaking of abandoning the rivers as they hit peak form, the EA is looking into the current close season on our rivers and the Angling Times also ran a poll along the same lines. Now I don’t usually do angling politics on here, but I think the current system has had it’s day. ‘Rivers are better than ever’ some people say, but not in my neck of the woods they aren’t. Apart from the River Don, that used to be an open sewer, all my local rivers are dire compared to when I was in my teens. Some are almost sterile and no close season will have any effect on them any time soon.

Here’s a stretch of river that used to produce 2lb+ roach and 4lb+ chub, not to mention the swarms of gudgeon that swam over the gravels in their hundreds.

Yes there is a river under that lot! Cormorants took most of the fish, and over abstraction, probably linked to over population, have since rendered it almost invisible.

A bit further downstream it looks more like it used to when I started fishing.

Some evenings, when the big roach used to roll here, you had to shout to make yourself heard! Now the river here is empty and abandoned by the EA. There’s no need for a close season here, in fact it may as well be turned into a road.

The tiny rivers where I learned to fish, The Torne, Idle, Mother Drain and Ryton all teemed with fish. All but the Ryton were famous round these parts for their big roach, not to mention all the other fish that meant you could catch from almost anywhere. The Ryton held a lot of large dace, and big chub for the time, up to and over 5lbs. Again, the cormorants soon polished those smaller fish off.

All of the above rivers do still hold some fish, but a tiny fraction compared to my youth, and it’s a heck of a job to find them. I’d say that there is about 2-5% of the fish populations of old in these 4 rivers at the very most. That’s not me trying to over sensationalise things, but the truth. All the rivers are crystal clear so it’s not hard to make this number up and see how empty they are.

Looking at some of my results on these rivers, you’d wonder why I’m moaning. All contain numbers of chub over 4lbs up to well over 5lbs, which I’ve caught, as well as some lumpy perch to over 3lbs. The roach still remain, and considering Martin and I have caught around 30 x 2lb+ roach in a couple of years you’d think it was heaven. However, that is not the case. Those roach have been caught from 13 areas, or swims, over many miles of rivers. Once there was many huge shoals of roach from ounces right up to fish beyond our wildest dreams. There is just a fraction of those numbers still hanging on. The chub will be in shoals sometimes over a mile apart. There are no gudgeon or the many shoals of fish such as perch and dace that once filled the gaps in between. In fact I’ll make this bold statement. If the young Mike Townsend was playing down his local woods today, peering off the bridge into the river, he wouldn’t have begged his dad to buy him some fishing tackle for Christmas. Those roach and gudgeon I used to stare at for hours captivated me, but they’re not there now, so I doubt I’d have ended up being an angler.

Anyway, on to the original point, there’s just no need for a close season round here on my rivers. On those rivers that have larger fish populations, I’m sure a mid April till mid July close season would suit the fish far better. And if the EA really cared about fish and the environment, it would stop over abstraction that has choked what bit of life remained in my locals, then at least they might have a chance to recover. In a time when every news agency jumps on bandwagons such as the ‘plastic pollution’ one, they turn a blind eye to the very thing that is effecting our environment more than anything, the mis use and over demand for the nectar that supplies the planet with life, water!

Right, that’s politics done with, now for some fishing.

The temperature was still hovering just above freezing when I tackled my local river for roach. The colour and levels of the river looked good after some rain, but it was cold rain so I was unsure how things would go.

Trotting maggots under a stick float bought a few bites from some roach with the day brightened up by a 1lb 6oz roach. It was more than welcome in such conditions.

After a couple of trips where I struggled, the air temperature suddenly headed to almost double figures! I walked up and down the banks feeding various spots, and soon spotted some shadowy shapes moving tight to some cover. I was pretty certain some were chub, but some smaller shapes were ‘big roach size’ so I concentrated on this particular area. I fed maggots into the swim for around 30 minutes prior to casting in. On my first trot through, the float buried and I thought I’d hooked the bottom, but then the bottom nodded!  It turned out to be a chub, and a decent one at that for this area, it weighed 5lbs 4oz

I also added chub of 4lb 4oz and 4lb 11oz. They gave my light trotting gear a real good workout.

I then hooked into something that felt like a big roach, but I couldn’t see any silver flashes through the slightly coloured water. It turned out to be a perch, full of defiance to the very end, bristling with anger that I’d disturbed it. It wasn’t a big fish, around a pound and a half or so

As dusk was starting to set, I got into an almighty birds nest after pulling out of another fish, probably a chub, so I tackled down and vowed to return the next day.

After a few delays in the morning, I returned to the banks early in the afternoon. It was 9 degrees now, and we’d not had an overnight frost. I set about feeding a few swims again and it was now a lot easier to see fish as the colour was dropping out by the minute. In one I could see a couple of big roach, but they were flanked by their chub bodyguards. After feeding maggots for a while, all the fish were really hunting out the bait. With the fish so active, I headed to the spot where Martin and I have had a lot of good roach since the end of November.

It’s slightly deeper and steadier here so I kicked off on the stick and maggots again. A couple of chunky 6oz fish came early followed by a real old warrior of 1lb 8oz. I don’t know if this fish bears the marks of an earlier pike attack, when there was a real menace causing havoc in early winter, or if its the goosanders again. It could possibly be some disease, as a lot of fish have ragged, split or worn tail fins. Some might say it’s keepnets, but when Martin and I find these roach, we’re usually the first to catch them and they’re already tatty and battered. Plus, they’re only in the net for a couple of hours at the most.

The fish was also covered in leeches, suggesting the larger fish may have been laying dormant in the cold water. I quickly removed them all before placing her in the net.

After the early roach, I then hooked and landed a couple more 4lb+ chub. They’re not usually caught around these swims, but I think it proves they’re getting really active and hungry now.

The swim went quiet following the commotion, but as dusk lowered the light levels, the roach switched back on. Amongst the 4 -8oz fish, a few more better samples were landed, 1lb, 1lb 6oz, and 1lb 11oz roach made it a good day and one to get me excited that I may have an end of season bonanza.

When I got home and put the photos onto my pc, my enthusiasm was tempered a touch. The 1.11 and the 1.6 were the last decent roach I’d caught over the last 6 weeks in previous trips. After seeing a couple of shoals in this area in clear water, totalling around 20 or more big roach, I’d have though the chances were slim of those 2 fish being caught again before any others. Time will tell whether the others have moved on or fallen the victims to predators, but for now it’s time to rest the roach until the weather warms or the season is about to end…….which brings me back to where I started!




January Struggles

The fishing has been a bit tough this month. The weather hasn’t helped because it’s been all over the place. Heavy rain, freezing temperatures, strong winds and finally a mild spell meant the fish won’t have known whether they were coming or going.

Because of this, it was hard to pick a species to fish for on my days off work so I stuck to local venues. Unfortunately when we had the short mild spell I was busy! Typical, but I did catch a few fish, just no real specimens.

I started off trying to catch big roach on my local river. It was running quite high and with good colour. The ‘going’ area was a bit slow of late so I tried a different stretch that produced some good fish for me when the river was the same state last year. When the river had been clear a month earlier there was nothing in the swim, so I was only going to give it 30 minutes. Bait would be my usual winter fare of mashed bread and flake on the hook.

I was down to the last 5 of those 30 when I missed a good bite. The next cast I was ready though and I struck into a good fish. Sadly, the hook pulled after a few seconds without me seeing the fish. I gave the swim a bit longer, feeding a bit more mashed bread. Just as I was thinking of moving I had another bite and made contact again. This time everything held, and I was soon slipping a good roach into the net. It was in lovely condition, silver and red, with the lovely blue hue shot through it’s upper flanks. It was a fish I’d not seen before and it weighed in at 1lb 13oz, with a length of almost 13.5 inches.

It was only when I saw the photos later on that I realised it had a slight two tone colour on both sides. I’ve never seen this on a roach before.

I carried on, buoyed by my success and landed a smaller sample of probably just over a pound, plus another roach that I could swing in. I was hoping for more but that was it. No more bites or fish. At least 2018 had got off to a decent start.

The weather then turned really cold so I had a day after pike, and blanked. No bites no nothing!

I then had a go for some chub. Not for big fish, but just on some local rivers where I might get a bite or two. With the temperature around freezing plus a biting wind thrown in, any action would be a bonus. I had a few nice fish that almost warmed me up!

The best fish were touching 4lbs and in lovely condition. 

Martin and I were soon back after the big roach, but things were very slow. One day I kept seeing the slightest knock on my float as my bread trundled through the swim. I was convinced fish were there but not feeding. I wondered if it was bread they were wary of. I’d seen big roach in the clear water in summer go crazy for baits such as casters, hemp and bread. After you’d caught a few from the shoal, they’d suddenly become very wary of the bait you were using. A switch to one of the other baits would soon see them feeding again. Because of this I started feeding some white maggots into the swim while I changed my size 12 hook for a tiny size 20. The first run down the swim saw the float bury and I was into a roach. It wasn’t big at 6oz but at least I’d caught a roach!

I kept feeding and working the swim, putting a tidy bag of fish together. Roach between 4 and 10oz were the mainstays, with the odd chublet. Something I never seem to catch on bread. As the light faded and the bait kept going in, I eventually started to connect with some of the larger redfins. A number of fish over a pound, topped by a cracker of 1.11 turned the day on its head. It was pretty hairy playing them on such light gear in the strong current. What was interesting was that Martin only caught one roach of around a pound on bread. He fished well, but I think I’m right in thinking that they’re spooking away from bread. It’s understandable I suppose, as Martin and I have landed a lot of good fish from this certain area, all on bread, nothing else. I hope they switch back onto it though because it’s a lot easier, and better for the heart,  playing a big roach on a size 12 hook than a 20!

Here’s part of my catch

The weather then made the river unfishable again. Cold chocolate brown water and a raging flow are not to the liking of any species. When it did fine down I returned to trot my maggots again. Big roach eluded me, though the maggots threw up some nice surprises that I rarely catch, such as this roach bream hybrid

I also landed a perch with the most vivid colours

I was still getting good ‘bags’ of fish on the maggots, but the best roach were not making one and a half pounds, which were common sizes a month or so ago. Maybe catching the smaller fish first unsettles the larger fish, or perhaps the big girls have moved elsewhere. Maybe the predators are causing havoc. Mink and gooseanders frequent the area, plus a few roach I’ve caught have been through the wars a bit.

Maybe all these negative thoughts will vanish the next time I’m trotting and then strike into the proverbial ‘brick wall’ followed by that ‘thump thump’ pulsating through the rod. Time will only tell!






Christmas Crackers

It’s that crazy time of year again if you’re a postman, or one of Santa’s helpers! The daylight is at it’s shortest and I’m at my busiest, so fishing trips are hard to squeeze in. However, I have managed a few after work trips and a couple of hours in the morning on my day off. All on my local river of course, as travelling is out of the question because things are just too hectic in December.

Every now and then the river gives you a nice gift and this Christmas I’ve had mine. After the goosander troubles had rendered all my usual roach swims as no go areas, due to no fish being there!, I was walking the banks, fish spotting, when I came across a shoal of nice chub. The water was really low and clear so I crept up on them. I disturbed them slightly and they headed for the middle, where there was a bit of weed for cover. It was at this point I became rather excited. Yes there was 3 nice chub to look at, but the rest were great big roach. I watched them for a while, illuminated by the low winter sun, and I was sure they were fish I’d not seen before. I headed home for my tackle and was back on the bank an hour later, after preparing some mashed bread for feed.

I baited the swim for half an hour or so while I assembled my tackle. If these roach weren’t fished for, I was pretty certain they’d be easy to catch straight away, but it’s always nice to give them plenty of time to lower their guards and get a taste for the bait before starting. The first run through of the stick float saw a redfin of just over a pound come to the net. This was slightly disappointing as most of the roach looked bigger than that. I was happier after the next trot because a lovely fish of 1lb 10oz gave me that familiar heart in mouth roach tussle. That fish had made my day, but things got better on the next cast. I thought I’d hooked one of the chub at the bottom of the swim, but as it came within netting range I could see a cracking roach. I prayed the hook would stay in place and it did, which saw 14.5 inches of silver and red slip over my landing net.

The weight was bang on 2lbs, and another new fish for me at this weight, which probably confirmed my suspicions that this was a new shoal of big roach I’d found.

The light was starting to fade so I called it a day. I phoned Martin with my news and would you believe it, he’d already found the shoal and had caught a 2lb fish himself! What made this news better though was that after comparing photos, they were obviously different fish and again, it wasn’t a fish we’d seen before. I couldn’t wait to get back.

My next day off work saw me waiting on the bank for it to get light, while feeding a little mashed bread now and then to get them ready for my piece of flake, hopefully! The conditions were poor for roach, freezing cold and clear, but at least the lack of wind would make float control easy. After a couple of hours I’d landed a dozen prime roach with several over one and a half pounds. It was dream fishing, but alas with no ‘2’s this time, the best fish being 1lb 11oz. I could have continued but I had a busy day ahead of me. I’d just have to fit more sessions in when I could.

I ended my next session early. I could have carried on catching these magnificent roach, but a pike, possibly around 8 to 10lbs was attacking everything I hooked, even fish it had no chance of fitting down it’s mouth. This was marking a few of the roach badly so I decided to do something about it.

I returned and quickly caught it on a small roach deadbait. Now I could never kill a pike for doing what it does naturally, unlike some people, so I ran as fast as I could with it in my sling before placing it about 100 yards away, in with a large shoal of small to medium sized chub. I told this most aggressive of pike that they taste far nicer than roach, and I think she realises this as she hasn’t bothered my roach since!

My next session was an after work quiver tipping job in the dark. Again, the weather was freezing and I was expecting chub more than roach. This was what happened on the first cast as the tip started bouncing with a chub trying to make away with my bread. An hour later though and it was turning into another cracking roach session as more chunky roach banged the tip round, almost like barbel do. I could have sworn the best fish was going to be 2lbs, but it fell short at 1lb 13oz. It looked all the world a ‘2’, but when I measured her at 13.5 inches I could see she needed to grow just a tad longer. I know roach are built differently from river to river, and stillwaters of course, but the general length of 2 pound fish in this river is between 14 and 14.5 inches long, thanks to those genetics that give them their broad backs and pigeon chests.

As I write this I’ve just come out of hospital after my eye operation and the good news is my sight has been restored, far better than I could ever have hoped. It’s just a tad sore at the moment and I’ve a bit of double vision, but in a couple of weeks everything should have settled down nicely. Even better news is Martin has landed another ‘new 2’ from the shoal at almost 2lb 2oz, so it seems we’ve discovered another cracking shoal of redfins. We’re not going to hammer them though, probably only going once a week at the most. While we know that the great fishing can end as quickly as it started, we don’t want to be the ones to cause the demise. There seems to be at least a few other ‘2’s in the shoal, but even if we don’t catch them, how can you not be happy with a few over 1.5lbs every time in a short session?

All I need to do now is wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year for 2018 and may your lines always be tight! All the best


‘Cut’ Gems

Fishing time is usually at a premium for me as we approach the Christmas period, but this year it’s been even worse. A couple of operations on one of my dogs left him with a large open wound that needed someone with him at all times. He’s fine now, but then there was family birthday meals, birthday parties, etc etc etc! To save me going round the bend, I’ve had to snatch the odd few hours here and there on local venues. Here are the highlights and lowlights from them.

To start with I was down in the dumps as my local rivers roach population were taking a hammering from a few goosanders. There’s not much I can do about this other than hope the roach manage to hide somewhere safe. I visited one prolific spot and all I could see in the clear water was a couple of chub and a perch. There wasn’t a roach in sight. I had a dabble for what I could see and caught the perch. It was a lovely plump thing, a monster for the future (hopefully!

A week later Martin and I set off across the fields to try and see where any redfins might be hiding. But when we arrived at the river some overnight rain had badly coloured the water and there was a lot of debris coming down in the flow. This was a shock, but with both of us having very little spare time we quickly hatched a plan. We walked back and drove a few miles down to our local canal. We only had a few hours spare so we had a short match, hoping to focus our efforts on catching as much as we could. We both used casters and were fishing for anything, but I bet we were both secretly hoping for one of the big roach in this stretch, I know I was!

To be fair, fish wise and action wise, Martin thrashed me. He had a cracking net of dace (yes, canal dace!) and some plump perch. However, I only landed seven fish, but the smallest was a 10oz roach, as well as 3 chunky bream, plus 3 hard fighting chub. It was a real contrast of catches despite us only being a few yards apart.

I even had a few photos taken of my fine canal net of fish

The chub, whilst nothing special from most venues, were pretty big for a tiny canal. The best ones were 4lb 2oz and 3lb 14oz. They were a bit scabby, but very long and broad across the back

Martin and I were disappointed with the lack of roach, though the one I caught suggested more might have been in the area. We’d both fished ultra light canal float tactics, but because the water was crystal clear, we suspected the line shy roach might have shied away from our baits. To see if my hunch was right, I returned a week later armed with different tactics. A bag full of liquidised bread and a few slices for the hook was coupled with a very sensitive ‘bomb’ rod and some tiny cage feeders. The only problem was the weather was now ‘Arctic’ and the canal looked devoid of life. A short walk saw the odd bream milling about, then some chub on the far bank. I never saw any roach, but I know they’re pretty well camouflaged, even in very clear water.

I started where I fished on my last time out. The first cast saw a plume of white bread particles follow my pinch of flake to the bottom of the canal. I tensioned the tip slightly, when it tapped and pulled round slightly. I could tell it wasn’t a roach when I struck, but a hefty slab. You could see it fighting in all it’s glory as I played it to the net on the ultralight tackle. It was like the proverbial wet sack!

After this fish, it was a succession of quick raps, typical of shy roach bites. I landed a dozen nice roach, not massive, but some of over half a pound. It was a good few hours fishing and I think I’d cracked ‘the method’ for the roach. The trouble with this though was the amount of dog walkers, cyclists, and nice people who stopped for a chat. I was struggling to hit a lot of my bites as I was in danger of cracking them in the face with my rod. Thats the trouble quiver tipping in such a tight space. When someone is looking at your rod tip it’s a bit rude to suddenly swipe them across their nose! I needed to think about my problem.

I decided to fish the last hour or so of light, on a tiny canal float, with bread on the hook. I fished well over depth, making sure I had a few inches of line on the bottom. I reckon it would work, despite the temperatures now reaching freezing overnight, and not much more in the day!

And it did work, despite seeing some very strange characters near the canal as darkness fell. I fished until I could no longer see the float, though sometimes I couldn’t see it because a big bar of canal silver had engulfed my bread.

I’m wondering whether there’s any 2lb + roach in this canal. Rumours say there might be and I’m on the right track, though I might have to wait until the close season to find out!


Redfin Riot, Barbel Blues

The barbel fishing on the new areas of the River Trent I’ve been fishing are tough to say the least. A couple of blanks, without so much as a tap, and a few bream on another trip left me frustrated and needing a bit of action. It’s all a learning curve of course. We’ll never learn anything new if we fish the same swims or places all of the time, but I was in need of a confidence boost.

I headed to Collingham on the tidal Trent. Surely I’d get a bite or two there. I was surprised to find the place empty, bar for one angler towards the weir. I settled into an old favourite of a swim, a nice gravel run that has regularly produced for me in the past.

After a short period of baiting up, followed by a coffee, I was thrilled to see the rod lurch over straight away after casting out. It felt a heavy fish as it powered off steadily downstream, when there was a crack and the line snapped! I was livid. I blamed myself for setting the clutch too heavy, though line was being taken, but then I thought there’s no way 13lb main line should break before the 9lb hook link. The line must have rubbed against a rock or something sharp, causing it to fail. It was at this point I realised why I rarely fish Collingham, unless its after October.

A couple of other anglers appeared, looking down to where I was fishing, talking quietly to one another. Then there was a shout of “You don’t mind if we drop in here mate do you?” They wanted to fish 15 yards downstream of me, where I’d just hooked the fish that still had me steaming inside! Now, I could have objected, but they were quite polite, and probably knew no better. I mean most pegs on commercial style fisheries are no more than a rod length apart. They probably thought there was loads of room. I shouted back “Course you can mate, no bother” Inside though I was raging, hence me not objecting. I’d have probably kicked off big style if I objected, so I went for a walk to calm down. I mean there was 2 anglers in over half a mile of river, so it’s obvious to fish 5 yards downstream of me you pair of f*****g f***wits. Talk about pea brained!!

Anyway, I went to see the other angler to see how he was fairing. He’d not had a bite all day and if he did hook anything other than a skimmer, it was never fitting in the smallest landing net I’ve ever seen, complete with a pole of less than 6 feet!! What goes on in some peoples heads? It just put me in even more of a foul mood.

I went back to my peg and made a big noise moving all my gear 30 yards upstream away from morons 1 and 2, halfway between them and moron 3. They looked a bit sheepish, perhaps realising I was a bit angry. I was determined to catch a barbel now in amongst all this complete lack of etiquette and basic common sense.

Soon enough, after some careful feeding to hopefully draw any feeding fish from my original swim into my new one, I was into another barbel. This one felt pretty small, but I milked it for all the morons to see. When I landed it I was surprised to see the size of it, so I gave it a quick weigh. At just under 9lbs it did little to lift my gloom, because I was now thinking the fish that I’d lost was something pretty big. Still, as I packed up I stomped past the morons with the smuggest of faces.

It was time for something more gentile to calm me down, so I settled for some roach fishing on my local river. After a lengthy walk, I thought I’d found some decent roach tight to some overhanging vegetation. I carefully fed them for a couple of hours with loads of casters, fishing another swim in the mean time. I caught some lovely small roach, plus a lumpy perch of over 2lbs, but soon it was time for the main event.

The dark shapes were hard to make out due to the mottled light and vegetation, but I was sure they were roach. I carried on feeding casters, drawing them away from their cover, until they were right under my feet. They were roach, but it was hard to say how big they were. There was also some very excited greedy chub joining in the party. Now it was time for my tried and tested methods of singling out the larger roach while keeping the rest feeding, unaware of my cunning plan.

I fed the shoal some more casters, then laid my rig (the usual trotting gear of my crystal dibber float, set 3 feet deep, with double caster fished on a tiny size 20 hook) under my rod tip in the margins. You stare at the casters waiting for a fish to see it and split from the main shoal to intercept. If it’s a chub or a small roach you quickly pull the bait out of the water, but if its a good fish you strike gently once the bait is taken, but feed more casters at the exact same time. You need to have the casters in your hand at all times or the shoal will just bolt. Get it right and you’ll catch a few specimen roach, get it wrong and you’ll end up with just one at the best.

The first roach seemed a decent one, so I let it sip in my casters. It’s a joy to watch a specimen roach gently take your hook bait in crystal clear water without a care in the world. I’ll never tire of it. Anyway, I struck gently and fed at the same time. The roach took a few seconds to realise it was hooked, but the others were already chasing my lose fed casters well away from any commotion. I used the flow to quickly get the roach downstream, away from the swim, where I played it to the net. It felt and looked a good one, and this was confirmed when I lifted the landing net. The scales said 1lb 12oz, so it looked like my shoal of roach were indeed decent fish.

I was pretty excited now and after a few more minutes feeding casters, fish number 2 was a formality, with the exact pattern followed as with the first fish. I recognised it straight away as the one Martin had landed a few weeks ago at 2lbs, with the damaged tail and pectoral fin. Again it weighed 2lbs, but it had moved well away from it’s original swim. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Martin at work. He said he’d be with me in 40 minutes!

I had placed both fish in a keepnet, well downstream from me, where I was landing the roach. Any fish returned to the swim would end the action straight away. A few more quality roach were landed. A few that i’d estimated a few ounces either side of a pound, plus another specimen roach that still had its summer colours.

Then disaster struck. As I played what looked and felt another 2lb+ roach, it started heading downstream far quicker than all of the others. Then I saw a sizeable pike zooming up behind it. In these situations I just bully the fish hard. I’d rather lose it to a hook pull than a pikes belly, and thats what happened. The hook pulled and after 3 short chases the roach lived to tell the tale, thankfully!

This saw the end of my chances of catching big roach in numbers. Soon another pike arrived on the scene and they both sat close to my keepnet waiting for any big roach to be led into their lair. Martin arrived just then, so I just caught one more fish to show him how it’s done! This time I played it upstream away from the pike and that did see an end to the action. The commotion sent the remaining shoal in all directions. Another specimen redfin was landed though, giving me 4 over 1lbs 10oz, plus some chunky back up fish. To be honest, the success was in avoiding catching fish, if you know what I mean!

After Martin had taken some good photos and we’d watched the roach sulk back to their home, I had to catch some of the greedy chub just to see their sizes. Fish of just under and over 4lbs were landed, before the famous ‘one last cast’ produced one of well over 4lbs. I was certainly over my Trent nightmare now!

For my next barbel trip to the Trent, I headed to a stretch closer to home as the shorter daylight hours caught me out. I arrived just as it was getting dark, but the river looked lovely, like a mill pond. Fish were jumping everywhere and I was soon weighing a barbel of 3oz over 10lbs. That’s more like it!

Soon after I had a good bonus chub, but then that was it. Just as I thought the swim was building the action ended. At least I’d caught a decent barbel this time. I had intended to fish the Trent again on my day off work, the following day, but I had to take my dogs to the vets with my girlfriend for their annual check ups. That meant another trip to the local river for whatever I fancied.

The day started off on a sour note as I saw a goosander tearing into a shoal of good roach. After I scared it off, I saw the roach bolt out of the weed in a tight ball, up to where I’d caught the big ones earlier in the week. That probably explains why they’re moving about a lot, to avoid such a nasty and greedy predator. I’ve only seen one of these birds before, and it ate a lot of quality roach on that day, before the fishery owner blasted his shotgun at it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he was closer to shooting Martin and I than the bird, though I doubt it would’ve gone back!

Feeling dejected at what I’d seen, I did a lot of walking, checking up on other stretches wondering why big roach have gone on the missing list for a year or more. I saw some interesting things. There are a number of large chub shoals, containing 20 or more medium sized chub. I fed them plenty of casters and studied them. They use cover well and are very spooky, but the casters had them lowering their guards. I was surprised to see each shoal of chub contained at least 3 big roach, all around 2lbs or more. Why they are mixed in with chub I don’t know, but when I first started fishing for them they were in one big roach shoal. Maybe it’s a safety thing, to avoid predators or to avoid anglers. Whatever the reason, it’s effective.

I fed one of the shoals that contained 4 big roach until i could single them out. I almost blew it as I lost the first roach after a few seconds, but amazingly it carried on feeding! Once, 2 big roach raced for my hook baits before turning away at the last moment. It was only when I reeled in that I noticed I had a just a quarter of caster on my hook instead of 2! How do they do that? It was only a matter of time before one made a mistake, and I was soon playing and landing another specimen roach. With time ticking away before it was time to go to the vets, I couldn’t single out another big roach, though they were still feeding. I tried my hardest but instead had a lovely chub beat it to the bait for a nice autumn brace. These chub were just over a pound a couple of years ago, but most are now well over 2lbs, with some over 3lb. If only the roach grew like that!

I’m loving my roach fishing at the moment, but I hope the barbel action hots up soon, and we need a lot of rain quickly! Tight lines.



Autumn Starters

Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons, both in general and fishing terms. Once the trees start to shed their leaves you know that its time to make plans for fishing in the colder months. You also know that fish will start to feed harder to store up energy for the colder times ahead. Also, as is normal in my case, it’s another chance to reflect on a poor summers tench fishing!

Anyway, I kicked off my autumn fishing with a trip to my local river for big roach. The day before I’d had a chat with Martin, which had him telling me he was now only a couple of ‘2’s behind me on our local gem. We’re both a bit competitive, which goes all the way back to our school days when we were strikers in the same football team. It was always a competition to see who could score the most goals and that’s what we’re both still like today, so this time I set off to find some big girls instead of the normal ‘shoal’ fish.

In a usual holding area, I came across half a dozen chunky redfins, possibly 8-10oz. I threw a couple of handfuls of hemp in the swim and sat down to watch. Blow me, if 6 big roach didn’t ghost out of the weed and start tearing the bottom up to get to my hemp! I knew this swim would be a patience game so I threw some more hemp in and went for a walk, armed with some bait.

A few hundred yards away I came across a shoal of medium sized chub. After studying them for a while, I noticed in the middle a couple of them looked like roach, but it was hard to tell, so I crept right to the margins for a closer look. After feeding some mashed bread slightly upstream, I could clearly see three big roach, that were almost as long as the chub! I gave them a few good helpings of mash, then headed back to my ‘hemp’ swim.

On my return the roach were still going crackers for my hemp. I started feeding a few grains every minute, and in doing so, I managed to manoeuvre the fish all over the swim, which is perfect for singling out individual specimens. I soon had them feeding right under my near bank and noticed one with a shredded tail. I remember Martins last ‘2’ had such a tail so I targeted this fish.

My tiny dibber float was used to trot a single grain of hemp on a 20 hook. I managed to hook my target fish on the first run through and after a great scrap on the light gear, I was looking at her in the net. But it was obvious I’d been fooled, as this was an imposter, only weighing just over a pound and a half!

I settled back into my feeding rhythm, but the fish were a bit more nervy now. I noticed a couple of the big fish were hiding under some weed, but were darting out to intercept the loose feed on most occasions. I ran my dibber through once again, tight to the weed. The float jabbed under once more, and I was attached to another good fish. This didn’t put as good a scrap up as the first roach, but it was bream like in it’s depth, so I suspected a good sized specimen. I landed her with no problems, despite the tiny hook, and knew as soon as i picked it up that it should be over 2lbs.

At over 14 inches long (I’ve started measuring some of my ‘2’s now!) It weighed in at 2lb 1oz. I sent the photos to Martin straight away, who was at work, just to let him know I’d stretched my lead! I then took a couple of rather poor self take photographs. It’s tricky trying to show a roach to it’s full potential on a ‘selfie’

After this roach I managed to land another of well over a pound, but this spooked the shoal full stop. I didn’t use a keepnet and I think that was the problem. The returned redfins headed straight back to their shoal mates and they knew what my game was! Time to move on to the ‘bread’ swim

When I got back to the other swim all of the fish had gone, but a couple of handfuls of more mashed bread had them returning. While I steadily fed them, I rigged up a small stick float rig, with a size 12 hook this time, just the right size for a piece of flake.

I was beginning to think it impossible to target the roach over the chub, but I noticed the chub would drift 5 yards downstream just after some bread was introduced, but then they quickly worked their way upstream to eat it. The roach however, seemed that little bit braver and on occasions were isolated at the front. On my first attempt I had to quickly reel in when a chub and roach went for my bait together, but a few minutes later, one of the roach was a full 5 feet or so in front of the other fish at the head of the swim. I couldn’t cast in quick enough, and held my float back hard so the flake fluttered right in front of the roach’s eye line. I then let the float through at the pace of the current, and the roach did the rest.

It felt like a real chunk when I set the hook, but by using a size 12 hook, I was confident that if I didn’t make any errors, she would soon be mine. That proved to be the case, despite the roach using the flow to it’s advantage. Once on the mat I could see this roach  was well over 2lbs, despite being the same length as the 2.1 I’d caught earlier. This was so deep and broad, and the scales confirmed this when they said 2.4, my best redfin from this river. I called Martin to see if he’d help with the photos. In the hour it took him to finish work and walk to the river, I managed to catch one of the chub, but the remaining roach had long gone. Still, I think it had been a good day!

After work the next day, I was straight back in the ‘hemp’ swim. This time I never had time to ‘bait and wait’ so it was a case of catching like I was in a match. I also used a keepnet and had a great evenings sport, though all of the roach were between 4 and 12oz. They were so pristine and chunky, they all looked like future 2 pound fish, so they were all treated with respect. I did lose a big fish at last knockings, but as I knew from the day before, it could have been anything from 1.8 to one of the ‘2’s You can’t complain with a nice bag of hemp caught river redfins though.

After having my roach fill, and stretching my lead over Martin, I looked for some new areas to fish for barbel. As I type this, I’ve had a couple of short trips after work that have produced plenty of these.

Just when I was getting sick of catching bream, the rod bent double and I leant into my first barbel of the autumn. What a great fight they put up. I managed a couple, both around 8lbs, but it’s a start.

I think I’ll stick to barbel fishing for the next few weeks, though Martin has already reduced the 2lb roach deficit by one already!




Late Summer Update

Sorry for the lack of recent blogs. I’ve managed the odd trip on the local front, but haven’t been out anywhere near as much as I’d like.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I gave the rivers a miss early season due to the high temperatures and what looked to me, unhealthy, battered fish. Even well into mid July, the fish were looking in a sorry state. I thought I’d give them plenty of time to recover.

Martin and I have walked a lot of local rivers looking for fish, well mainly big roach. We wanted to find more fish away from our usual areas. We succeeded big time, with Martin catching a number of 2lb fish, though 2lb 1oz was the best. They should be an ounce or two heavier in winter though! We found any deeper holes were worth a try. Feeder fished mashed bread was a winner at dusk after work, with plenty of fish over a pound falling to these tactics.

Over enthusiastic pike were a problem, and a few roach were lost to hook pulls after bullying fish, to save it from being pike food! This redfin had the closest of escapes!

I was sensible though, and every time this happened I moved swims, even though a prime roach or more were there for the taking.

One swim gave several ‘2’s to Martin and after he tipped me off, I managed a couple myself. These two fish weighed 1.11 and 2lb 1oz, and still showed signs of over enthusiastic spawning behaviour. They seemed healthy though and were starting to fill out a bit.

We were now getting plenty of rain, and the extra flow and colour this gave the river was giving ideal roach fishing conditions. It was at this point my problems began

I fancied some trips after big barbel or bream, but my car developed electrical gremlins meaning I had to be recovered whilst on the way to the Trent. A couple of weeks and a few quid later and I was sorted, only for the head gasket to go whilst sofa shopping with ‘her who must be obeyed’! Anyway, I decided the car has served me well doing almost 150,000 miles. It has dents, tatty carpets, a broken bonnet catch, chipped windscreen, smells of fish and boilies plus the head gasket problem. Because of this I’ve decided to get another instead of splashing out more than it’s worth to get it ship shape again! As i write this I’m still on the hunt. I wouldn’t be bothered but I’ve just bought Tracey another car after hers started playing up. Talk about everything going wrong at once!

Anyway, I didn’t need wheels with my local roach fishing, just a bit of walking. But there was more to go wrong. I damaged my left eye when I was 17 when a branch went into it. I was told I may need cataract operations in later life, and it left me with 20/20 sight in one eye, but only 4/20 in the other. After a struggle to get used to this over a year, my overall sight eventually adjusted itself so that it was fantastic (as long as I had both eyes open!) I could bat easily against international bowlers at cricket, and I never noticed anything wrong until I woke up a few weeks ago with a cloud like blur over half of my sight.  It was far worse in the low light of dawn or dusk and I was booked straight into hospital for a lot of tests, which means I’ll be having a cataract operation very soon. The downside is the trauma caused to my eye when I was 17 means there’s a chance I could lose my sight in the left eye. But I’ve got to try as it’s as good as blind now. Tests revealed my right eye is like a hawks, reading everything the tests threw at me, sadly the left eye is now measured at less than 6 out of 120!

Anyway, because I was struggling to see at dawn or dusk, I had some day time sessions trotting for roach, but gladly accepting everything that came along. I also started using stewed wheat as bait.

My Gran used to tell me my Grandad swore by this bait for local big roach back in the day. She was also in charge of preparing it, and it had to be just right. I compared it against hemp and sweetcorn in the now crystal clear water and the roach definitely liked the wheat more. I was soon taking some good bags of roach on trotted wheat. The only disappointment was the big roach that had been located a few weeks ago had gone. This is a big part of modern big roach fishing in small rivers. Where the cormorants once had easy pickings back in the early 1990s, these new generations of roach have learnt to hide, and almost vanish for months on end before appearing again. Finding big roach back then was easy. On a sunny day, they’d be basking just under the surface almost without a care in the world. Today, they hide under weed, tree roots, overhanging banks, and anywhere else where there’s any cover at all.

With the big ones hiding I had a lot of fun trying for smaller fish, though chunky redfins of 1.10 were caught amongst them.

The odd chub gatecrashed the party too!

It was noticeable how many year classes of roach were in the same shoals. This is great for future roach fishing.

Some days produced numerous specimens over a pound, all in their dark bronze like summer garb. This is just a part of one days catch.

Other shoals were less bronze, but just as welcome, such as these fish between 1 and 2 pounds

And this brings me up to date. Hopefully I’ll be on my travels again in the next blog, and if I’ve had my op, I hope my sight gets back to what it was. In the meantime, roll on those cooler days where the roach won’t be quite as hollow, unlike this 2lb specimen caught in August. Tight lines!

The ‘Glorious’ 16th?

I’ll start the blog a little before the so called glorious 16th. I had a couple of weeks at the end of May to go tench fishing. I never had a fish on both a gravel pit and a reservoir. I just can’t seem to get my timing right regarding the tench. I have to book my dates off work almost a year in advance, so if the tench aren’t playing ball, its tough luck. Now, I know it might just be me that’s rubbish at tench fishing, but in my defence, out of 13 other tench anglers on the same venues, at the same time, just 1 tinca was landed, despite fish rolling in our swims. I could go on about natural food etc, but I’ll just finish things by saying my bobbins never twitched!

I consoled myself by doing some fish spotting on the local canal. The bream were spawning and the roach were starting to go as well. The water was pretty clear now, giving a good insight into the canals potential. The shoals of roach were vast and there were some real lumps to be seen. I took some photos with a long lens, but it distorts the sizes a bit. You can judge the girths in some pics

And length in others.

There were stacks of quality specimens, showing that I was just scratching the surface with my catches in April. The amount of fish between 12oz and 1lb+ was staggering. Then there were the better fish, with more than a handful between 1.8 and probably over 2lbs. A quick shot from Martins iPhone gives a better indication. And you have to remember that this is just part of a shoal!

I think they might be worth some serious effort when the rivers are out of bounds or un fishable!

Anyway, back to the ‘Glorious 16th’ I’d decided to target the rudd of the Fens, a large network of drains in the flat, middle east of the country. I didn’t bother last year after a poor start to the season a couple of years ago. Back then, Martin and I spent all day trying to locate some good fish. We only saw the one roll, which resulted in a cracker of 2.8 for me, but the place was a shadow of it’s former self.

It was a lovely hot day as I drove down, which I knew would be perfect conditions to locate any surface feeding rudd. As I crossed over the River Trent, I thought there was a massive car boot sale on the banks, as I could see white vans for miles. Then I realised it was every man and his dog waiting for the start of the season. I hoped the Fen drains wouldn’t be as busy!

When I arrived at the drains the countryside was a picture. Lush green fields, trees swaying in the breeze and big rudd rolling in the drain! I could hardly contain myself not to cast in until the next day! A walk up and down revealed some other anglers who had pre baited some swims, but I wouldn’t be fishing near them. There seemed to be no real hot spots, the rudd were rolling as far as the eye could see, probably taking insects off the surface.

I tackled up on the bank in readiness for the next morning, and fed a few bits of crust to see if the rudd would take them. Some were taken, but they mainly seemed pre occupied with natural food. At least I’d sorted the main thing out. I’d located some good fish.

I had a snooze on the bank, setting my alarm before 3am. I awoke just before this and could hear voices. After getting my bearings, I noticed a few lights moving about in the drain itself. A closer inspection revealed some anglers in boats who’d floated into position in the dead of night. I hoped things wouldn’t get any busier!

I saw a few rudd swirling right in front of me so I flicked a few crusts out. They were taken instantly. I couldn’t resist the urge to start. I thought my large pellet waggler float should be visible in the first embers of the morning light. Thats one of the reasons for using them. They cast a large piece of crust easily and are highly visible. Later, as the light intensifies, I usually change to a dumpy crystal waggler that shouldn’t spook the fish as much.

I had to use my head torch to hook my piece of crust on a size 12 hook. Prior to casting in, a few more crusts were fired both up and down the drain, to get any feeding rudd looking for more bait. I cast out to the far bank, then eased my float back into the middle, where I could see the silhouette of the tip on the mirror like surface of the water. A small ripple appeared just beyond the float, where the crust should be. Had something taken it, or was it a small fish with eyes bigger than it’s belly? The float started to slide away so I struck and made contact with a good fish. In these weed choked drains there’s no time to really enjoy the scrap, so I bullied the fish into the edge, using the 3.5lb line to my advantage. The netting process was a bit hairy as I’d taken my head torch off, but I managed to bundle whatever it was into my net. Shining the torch onto it revealed the deep, golden flank of a specimen rudd.

Putting my hand around it to tease the hook out, I thought it might make 2lbs. My Rueben’s proved me right, with the needle settling on 2lbs 2oz. What surprised me though was how warm the water was. I know we’d had a couple of hot days but i never expected it to be this warm.

I placed a large keepnet in the deep margins and placed her into that. I didn’t want any other fish in front of me to be spooked as there were still fish rolling for my crusts. The next cast saw a large fish erupt through the surface to take my bread. This was going to be easy I thought, and I was partly right as I played the second good fish of the morning to the net.

By 6am I’d managed to land 10 good rudd to a best of 2lbs 5oz. I had weighed one other fish over 2lbs, but I never weighed the others. I’d have estimated them between 1lb 8oz and probably just under 2lbs, plus I’d also had a few fish between 8oz and a pound that managed to fit a chunk of crust in their mouths!

I’d caught the first 5 from my original peg and placed them into my net. The others were landed around 50 yards away, so I’d returned them straight away. If I’d caught a large specimen I’d have put it into the net for a photo. What frustrated me was the fact that big rudd were still rolling regularly in most pegs from time to time, but they weren’t interested in my bread. If I fed 5 bits of crust, one would be demolished, but the rest ignored. They were a bit more crafty than they used to be!

As the sun peered over the horizon I took a quick photo of my catch on the mat.

I tried to do a quick self take of one of the ‘2’s, but found out I’d left my camera bank stick adapter at home. I still took a quick effort with the camera resting on my bag!

What struck me as I watched them all swim strongly away, was that only one of my rudd seemed to have been marked by a cormorant. In the past, nearly every fish has had heeled up slashes on them from the ‘black death’

I hoped that this was a good sign and hopefully mean these fish will be here for many more years.

When I got home I looked at all the photos of fish what other anglers were catching that they’d put on the internet. I couldn’t help but notice how skinny and out of condition most of these fish looked (to me at least!) especially the ones caught close to my home. I walked down my local rivers and there were loads of anglers all trying to catch the same fish. One would move from a peg and another would move straight in. Again, the fish they caught were skinny and looked in poor condition to me. Some barbel and chub were still spawning on the gravels, but anglers were still trying to catch them. This leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I won’t fish the rivers for a few more weeks, when they’ve fully recovered. Especially in this hot weather. How many barbel will be going belly up after a scrap in oxygen depleted water? After all, they already look in poor condition before being caught.

It’s about time the closed season was reviewed. Forget the bullshit about tradition. The fish people are catching this week look in poor condition and this hot weather won’t be doing them any favours. Fish will be dead after being caught. Surely a closed season from mid April till July will be far more beneficial for the majority of fish. Still, that would ruin the ‘floppy hat brigade’s’ life, not having a ‘special day’ The weather and seasons are changing, I think us anglers should be following suit.

Anyway, rant over. Without sounding like a hypocrite, I thought the Fenland rudd were in fantastic, plump condition. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have fished for them.



Using My Loaf On The ‘Cut’

When it comes to nearby canals to fish, I’m spoiled for choice. I’ve got the South Yorkshire Navigation, which then splits into two, to form the new Junction and Stainforth and Keadby canals. These very large, wide, deep canals hold tremendous stocks of fish, with some neglected specimens of a few species amongst them. Even closer to my home than those though is the tiny Chesterfield Canal. Despite it not being in Yorkshire, I can be on the banks from my front door in less than 15 minutes.

Now the ‘Cheggers’ canal, as we called it when we were lads, will always be a special place for me. It was where I caught my first ever chub and dace. They were about the same size as my finger, but they were still chub and dace! In fact there used to be some very large chub in this canal for the time (80s to early 90s) Specimen anglers used to travel a long way to sample the many 4 and even the odd 5lb+ fish, which were real lumps back then. In fact Matt Hayes was fishing and writing about them in magazines, such was their repute.

I will always remember it for its big roach though. Pound plus roach from a tiny canal were huge to us boys who were just starting on the amazing journey of an angler. In fact I remember the day of Sunday July 7th 1985, when myself and two mates caught huge roach on a red hot day. Google says that was the date, because it was the day a 17 year old Boris Becker defeated Kevin Curren in the Wimbledon tennis final! We kept those giant bars of silver in the keepnet all day, until my Dad picked us back up in the evening. We were desperate to show them off, for more often than not we hardly ever caught anything worthwhile.

Anyway, fast forward to late last autumn, and Martin sent me a photo with loads of big roach milling about in crystal clear water. They were all over a pound, with some real lumps amongst them, and they were from this very canal. We both went back a week later but couldn’t locate them, although we only had about 5 minutes to spare. We decided to have a go at tracking them down in April through to early May, when the river season had ended. Unfortunately the canal now had a tinge of colour making selective roach fishing impossible. We’d just have to play a numbers game, until hopefully the canal clears again in the cooler months.

I started my campaign in the area where Martin had originally seen the roach. It was a classic area where big roach will thrive. Tree lined, so no cormorants can land or take off, and where dog walkers like to feed bread to the ducks. So how was I going to tackle these redfins and try to be selective with the sizes? Fishing lumps of bread flake of course, in conjunction with liquidised bread as feed.

Because the canal was only 3 to 4ft deep, I used very light float tackle and set it so the bread on the hook fell slowly through the cloud of smaller liquidised particles. I was quite happy to catch a couple of 8oz roach early on my first trip, though I wasn’t expecting the crackers that followed it. They were thumping roach for such a tiny canal and gave a real scrap, but I knew far larger ones lived amongst them.

On my next trip I landed a few smaller roach, along with a couple of bream. I’d have been over the moon with this sport when I was a lad. It just shows how some waterways thrive on neglect.

I struggled to catch any big roach after the first trips as mother nature conspired against me. The area of canal that contained the roach became coated in all kinds of foliage, making fishing almost impossible. It was hard to move on hearing the roach rolling as I walked away.

I had the next few trips on other parts of the canal, but used the same tactics. It was a real eye opener as to the canals potential. There was nothing massive caught, but the fishing was superb for a couple of hours at first light. Sometimes I caught bream

And sometimes I caught tench

One of the tench was strange. It was a male, and at first I thought it had three pelvic fins, but then realised one had probably been damaged a while ago and grew back like this

Somedays I caught a mixture of bream and tench. In fact one day I must have caught over 70lbs of fish, but just one small roach.

Eventually I managed to get back on the ‘roach stretch’ Martin had lost a very big fish a day earlier, but I couldn’t manage anything large. They were still great fish for a tiny canal, though it was obvious they weren’t far away from spawning. Some of the bream were as rough as I’d seen with spawning tubercles, especially on their heads.

I had one last trip before leaving the roach to spawn. Again I landed no monsters, but finished with a fine net of redfins. Maybe I’ll try to catch some more in the Autumn, but I’ll more likely be after big river roach. It’s a nice choice to have in these cormorant infested times!